On Wednesday, linebackers and defensive linemen took to the podium at the 2023 NFL Draft Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. One of these linebackers was Daiyan Henley from Washington State.
Henley mentioned during his presser that he has spoken with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Washington State LB Daiyan Henley says he spoke with the #Chiefs and feels confident in his versatility to play any role#NFLCombine | #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/GQoLq77Xpb— Ed Easton Jr. (@EdEastonJr) March 1, 2023
Coming out of Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles, California, Henley was a two-star recruit whose only offer was from Nevada. Henley entered college as a 6-foot-1, 183-pound wide receiver but converted to linebacker during the 2020 season. Having played six seasons of college football, Henley enters the draft as one of the oldest prospects in this class: he is already 23 years old and will be 24 by the end of the season.
In Henley’s final season with Washington State, his production proved he was more than just an athlete, amassing 106 total tackles, four sacks, an interception, and three forced fumbles.
Henley has filled out a bit since his college football career began. He now stands 6’1” and weighs around 232 pounds. Henley, who also played quarterback in high school, said during his press conference that his background on the offensive side of the ball helps him when he’s breaking down game film.
Wazzu LB Daiyan Henley on how his background as a WR helps him identify his keys in coverage. pic.twitter.com/luC6MDTaOw— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) March 1, 2023
Daiyan Henley bursts right in the gap of the offensive line, with the running back going airborne trying to block him.— WBG84 (@WBG84) February 27, 2023
End result was an easy sack. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/KlMQoEnKbH
While Henley is still learning the more subtle aspects of the position, you will not find a more aggressive or athletically talented linebacker in this draft class. Henley is a plus blitzer who uses his speed and agility to evade would-be blockers and relies on his explosiveness to make plays.
Daiyan Henley - Washington State— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 21, 2023
6007 230 33” Arms
Love how he triggers downhill and can play off/around OL - yet can glide/scrape laterally very well and run SL to SL. ‘Tough + Smooth Mover’ good combo!
Former Nevada WR. Played both sides in 2019. 630 Special Teams snaps pic.twitter.com/v8aT4JF0nW
Henley is a good run defender who effortlessly dances around larger, less agile offensive linemen. He understands angels at the point of attack and gets downhill quickly, driving tackles through the ball carrier.
Daiyan Henley (#1) is not Fred Warner.— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) February 20, 2023
BUT...if there was ever a super athletic, 230lb former receiver turned linebacker prospect that could do some Fred Warner-ish things on a football field as a value pick in the 3rd or maybe 4th round.....it's probably Daiyan Henley! pic.twitter.com/k0bywRkIpD
Henley is not pigeonholed as a box defender.
Thanks to his background as a wide receiver, he is pretty comfortable playing coverage in space. He understands the leverage and positioning of the routes opposing wide receivers are attempting to run. His background as a receiver also helps with his ball skills and winning 50/50 balls.
How he fits with the Chiefs
There is a chance the Chiefs select Henley as a possible future replacement for Will Gay Jr., who is entering the last year of his rookie contract. Or perhaps the Chiefs envision using Henley as a safety/linebacker hybrid. They can line up in the box and blitz with or drop back into zone coverage.
It’s rare to find a player with Henley’s unique athletic profile. In today’s pass-happy NFL, the more athletes you have who can play north to south and east to west from sideline to sideline, the better.
The bottom line
Most outlets have a second-round grade on Henley, with his draft position falling anywhere between picks 50 to 60. With a strong core of talented linebackers in-house and under contract for 2023, linebacker is far from the position of greatest need for the Chiefs.
I think the Chiefs have too many other holes on this roster to draft a linebacker in the second round. But the Chiefs general manager is a big proponent of drafting the best player available, so if Henley does slide to the Chiefs at pick No. 63, there is a chance the Chiefs will take a swing on a guy they believe in.